Mountain

 

Mountain

Last light,
First light,
And the North Face
Begins to smile.

Magic moment,
Brilliantly bright,
Summit shines,
In all its might.

Suddenly, abruptly,
The crowning glory
Roars to life.

A twinkle of limelight
On the mountaintop.
Briefly highlighted
By the glowing sun.

In a fleeting instant,
The peak shows-off
Its entirety
In one broad stroke.

Ponderance erupts.

For a short time
Life is large, possible,
Loud, tough, and magnificent,
Because a chunk of dirt, rock, and snow,
Reminds you that it is.

Audio Version:

Aconcagua

Mountain Biking

Colorado Single Track

Rolling,
Flowing,
Spinning,
Floating.

Down,
Across,
Up,
Over.

Gripping,
Braking,
Screaming,
Breathing.

Squeeze,
Push,
Lean,
Feel.

Gasping,
Hacking,
Hurting,
Snorting.

Relax,
Look,
Focus,
Squeal.

Shifting,
Laughing,
Weaving,
Grinning.

Hot,
Cold,
Thirsty,
Hungry,

Guessing,
Feeling,
Hoping,
And always thinking.

Audio Version: 

 

Downhill

Alpine Summit Revisited

Summit of Huayna Potosi, Bolivia

Rocky, icy
Mountain summit,
Peaks above
The clouds.

Alpine world
Of wind and cold.
But also,
Warm and calm.

I go ascending,
Mostly upward.
Climbing, slogging
Pushing, moving.

Ice axe, rope teams,
Crampons, prusik.
Crevasses, glaciers,
Headwalls, ridges.

Glaring sun,
Burning lungs.
Frozen fingers,
And biting wind.

Pain gives way to persistence.
A deep breath of anticipation
Supercharges my lungs.

My focus sharpens.
No more blurry,
No more struggle,
No more doubt.

Within moments,
The horizon magically sinks,
As the mountaintop rises,
And welcomes me
Onto its crest.

I’ve won the battle of my efforts,
And the mountain the war for my soul.

Audio Version: 

On the Summit

Rain on My Tent

Anchoring the Tent

Raindrops pounding my tent,
They sound like thunderous applause,
Every time the wind gusts,
And throws them in bunches
Against the fly.

Lightning flashes remind me
Of other power surges.

Thin sheets of nylon
Are all that shield me
From the wet and chaos.

But all is well,
Because the dome protecting me
Is well anchored.
And I am warm and dry,
Zipped-up inside it.

I’m getting sleepy,
Even though it’s only 4:00 in the afternoon.

It’s good to be
Settled into my sleeping bag,
Just as the music begins.

I close my eyes and listen.
As the Rain Symphony gets underway.

I’m intent on absorbing its every nuance.
The subtle pauses, the crescendos,
The somber moments, the tempo changes.

Have I heard this one before, I wonder?
Some parts sound familiar.

But I know better.
Because every Rain Symphony is unique.
Each performance only happens once.
There will be other concerts
That are nearly,
But not quite,
The same.

Each is composed of
Familiar and comfortable sounds,
Blended with surprise.

Like always, the music is spectacular.
Contentedly,
I let my mind wander,
And begin to dream.

Audio Version:

Camp at the end of a bushwhack
A Mountain Campsite

Glaciers

The Kahiltna Glacier

Oozing forward.
Glaciers grow,
Or at least they used to.

Sometimes tumbling,
But mostly flowing,
And relentlessly scouring
The ground below.

Slow, deliberate,
Always persistent.
Marching to the sea.

Their rumbling movements ebb and flow.
Causing pressures to come and go.
Somewhere something has to give,
And so, they crack.

That’s what a crevasse is.

Some of those are open,
But many go unseen.
At times they seem like pits of peril,
Cold, and dark, and deep.

But in most cases,
They’re awe-inspiring, magical places
Filled with intricate light.

The bottom line is
If you’re in one looking ‘round
The kind of place you’ll see.
Depends upon just why you’re there
The reason is the key.

And the same can be said
For the whole of these magnificent rivers of ice.

On the one hand,
They’re intimidating, frozen, and indestructible.
But on the other,
They’re alluring, invigorating, and easily broken.

on the Glacier

Life’s Mysteries

Alpine View

Open the gate.
They await.

Unknown, unique;
Unanticipated,
Beyond imagination.

So simple,
So complex.

You might reach a summit
In the middle of a foggy night,
And stand on a rock looking out
At distant peaks
Poking out above the clouds,
And illuminated by a full moon.
It could happen.

Perhaps, you’ll walk for miles
Along a hot beach
To get to a place
Where you can see sharks
In a feeding frenzy,
And where Tapirs still
Roam around at night.
It could happen.

It’s possible that you’ll retreat
From a poorly conceived climb,
And walk-up on a naked beauty
In the middle of nowhere
Washing off under a waterfall.
It could happen.

It’s not out of the question,
That an unknown young Tarahumara man
Will walk into your camp
And invite you to a
Dutuburi.
It could happen.

Perhaps you will be lucky enough
To see elk calves
Sliding down a snowfield,
And being scolded by their elders
When they reach the bottom.
It could happen.

Maybe, an Andean wolf
Will appear
Out of the clouds,
On your way down
From a high-altitude hut,
Look you over,
And just disappear back into the clouds.
It could happen.

Sometimes:
Upper stories of hotels are uncompleted;
Moths fly into ears;
Anchors hold;
Treble hooks get lodged in eyelids;
Rattlesnakes don’t strike;
Storms end;
Trees go up in flames;
Boats show up with your gear;
The Corona truck falls off a cliff;
The fish are biting;
The trail just stops;
The Northern Lights appear where they’re not supposed to;
Handlebars break;
Your hair stands on end;
Shortnosed Spearfish take the hook;
The wind blows your raft upstream;
Climbing routes run out;

Don’t close the gate.
Just be ready for the unexpected,
Because mysteries happen.

Audio Version:

3 Climbers

The Ruth

On the Ruth

Looking out the window
Of the little plane,
As we near our landing site
On the Ruth Glacier.

In the Alaska Range.

First, we flew over trees, rivers, and the lower Glacier.
Now, we’re flying through the Great Gorge
Between startlingly huge mountains
And above the river of ice.
The world is the color of snow, rock, and sky.

A few especially prominent peaks dominate.
Denali, the great one, is straight ahead but not close.
The Moose’s Tooth is to our right but nearby,
Imposing in scale but welcoming.

In the Alaska Range.

Suddenly, we break free of the Gorge
And enter the Ruth Amphitheater.
The venue of venues.

The Cessna turns left
Toward the Mountain House.
We haven’t even landed yet,
But the concert has already begun.

In the Alaska Range.

What do we do, I wonder?
I take a deep breath,
And realize that thankfully we’re not too late,
Because the music never ends.

The sky is clear
And the landing site on the snow vivid.
The closer we get to the ground,
The more massive and magnificent the peaks become.

In the Alaska Range.

The plane touches down and stops.
I open the door and step
Out onto the Ruth.

Warm in my parka
And astounded by what I see in every direction.

There are few people, no instruments,
No conductor,
And not much of an audience.

But I feel the full force of the music
And am compelled
To whisper to myself where all can hear, “Bravo.”

Audio Version:

In the Glacier Plane

Alpine Summit

Summit of Huayna Potosi, Bolivia

Mountain summit
Rock and ice.
Peaks above
The clouds.

Alpine world
Of wind and cold.
But also warm
And calm.

Ascending always,
Mostly upward.
Climbing, slogging
Pushing, moving.

Ice axe, rope teams,
Crampons, prusik.
Crevasses, glaciers,
Headwalls, ridges.

Confidence and
Proud persistence
Get you to the top.
And once you’re there,
Just look around,
The vision will astound.

Audio Version:

On the Summit

The Trail

Backpacking

Like a ribbon,
That snakes from here,
To there.

Starting,
Then disappearing,
Into thin air.

The path,
The way,
The natural trail.
Where does it lead?

Dirt, sand, gravel, and rocks.
They’re all a combination
Of individual grains
That rest against each other
And connect the first one,
To the last.

It begins,
It ends,
With plenty in between.

Just because
The whole of it
Can’t be seen
All at once, together,
And from start
To finish;
Doesn’t mean
It isn’t going somewhere.

Audio Version:

A Long Bridge

Rock Climbing

Climbing in Fremont Canyon

Up.
Vertical.
Mostly face to off-width.
Fingertips, edge, and arm jam.
Control, breathe,
First ledge.

Up.
Keep moving.
Touching and feeling.
Conserve energy.
Climbing
With your feet.

Up.
Don’t look down,
But do look around
At your world
Within reach.
One move
At a time.

Up.
Thank God hold,
Blocky granite, cold.
Three pitches
To the top.
But first things,
First.

Up.
To the left, a ledge,
Trust your edge.
Shift your weight,
Over your foot.

Up,
Pinch the roundish nub.
Balance and
Trust your instinct.
Think up.

Up,
Only the next move matters.
Everything
Is within five square feet.
One step,
Changes your world.

Audio Version:

Reaching for a Hold